Mary August Mullikan, an American Artist in China, 1920-1946

Project Details


The American woman artist, Mary August Mullikin (1874-1964) came to China in April, 1920 and settled in Tianjin. She did not leave China until 1946, when she joined the British as they withdrew their nationals from China. During the 26 years of her stay in China, she lived through the chaos of the Northern Expedition, the establishment of the Nationalist government, and Japanese occupation of Tianjin. Western art critics in Shanghai’s International Settlement regarded her as the first rate foreign artist in China, and her works were exhibited and sold in Tianjin, Beijing, and Shanghai. Unlike many other artists, she did not need to teach full-time or do newspaper and magazine illustrations due to the popularity of her works, so she could devote her full energies to traveling and depicting what she saw. From 1931 to 1936, before war and modern civilization had destroyed much of China’s old religious architecture, she and another woman artist, Anna M. Hotchkis (1885-1984) overcame many hardships and obstacles to visit the Yungang Caves and all of China’s nine sacred mountains, where they did paintings on-site and sought to express the lofty, tranquil beauty of these places. Their exquisite oil paintings, drawings, and watercolors, as well as Mullikin’s descriptions of the history and state of preservation of the religious buildings, and their travel accounts were preserved in two illustrated English-language books. No other artist has quite matched this accomplishment, and they did much to introduce Chinese Buddhist and Daoist art and culture to the West.This research project will seek to answer two questions through an analysis of first-hand textual materials and a stylistic analysis of the paintings: (1) identify Mullikin’s style and determine whether she had once occupied a position of preeminence in Chinese scenic painting circles or had influenced any Chinese artists; (2) whether her works had received any attention after she returned to the United States.
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/07/19

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Mary Augusta Mullikin
  • Anna M. Hotchkis
  • travel painting
  • The China Society of Science and Arts


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